Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Monday demanded guarantees that Libya’s ex-premier Baghdadi al-Mahmudi will get a fair trial and not be harmed physically as conditions for handing him over.
“We will demand all guarantees for a fair trial and that there will be no physical harm” to Mahmudi, said Marzouki at a joint press conference with Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil when asked when Tunisia will hand over slain strongman Moamer Kadhafi’s premier.
“We have our values that we stand for. So we ask for your patience,” he added.
Mahmudi is currently incarcerated in Mornaguia, near Tunis, and Amnesty International has urged Tunisia not to extradite him, saying he risks being subjected to “serious human rights violations.”
His defence team says that he fears for his life if he is returned to Libya as he is the sole holder of Libyan state secrets since Kadhafi was killed on October 20.
Tunisian courts have twice approved the Libyan request to extradite Mahmudi, who has been battling against it on the grounds that he has formally applied for refugee status in Tunisia.
But his extradition can only takes place if Marzouki approves it.
The 70-year-old Mahmudi, prime minister until the final days of Kadhafi’s regime, was arrested on September 21 on Tunisia’s southwestern border with Algeria and jailed for entering the country illegally.
According to his defence team, his extradition is not possible until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees rules on his application for political refugee status in Tunisia.
Mahmudi’s extradition request concerns charges of inciting rape in the town of Zuwarah in northwestern Libya during the anti-Kadhafi revolution, according to his defence team.
Earlier Monday, Marzouki who is on his first state visit abroad since being sworn in as head of state in mid-December, told a meeting of civil society groups in Tripoli that Libya had the right to judge the former premier.
“As is our right to demand the extradition of (ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali to try him for crimes he committed, you also have the right to ask for the extradition of Mahmudi,” he said.
Ben Ali was toppled last January in a popular uprising triggered by the self-immolation of a Tunisian vegetable vendor.
His ouster triggered the Arab Spring movement which has seen the fall of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and the killing of Kadhafi, while also paving the way for the removal of Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh and rocking the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Marzouki told reporters that the purpose of his visit was to ensure that Tunisian-Libyan cooperation was on track.
He said the two countries had agreed to respect agreements signed under the ousted regimes of Kadhafi and Ben Ali.
“These agreements signed between the Kadhafi regime and Ben Ali were not executed,” he said, adding that healthy integration of the two nations was the long-term objective.
Abdel Jalil said there were 50 such agreements signed and “only some were executed.”
Meanwhile, Abdel Jalil who heads Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, apologised for skirmishes along the border with Tunisia, saying they were the result of actions by individuals.
Tunisian paramilitary police clashed overnight with a Libyan armed group, the TAP news agency said on Monday.
And on Saturday, a dozen armed Libyans kidnapped four Tunisian gendarmes at the border. Three managed to escape, leaving behind one — named as Walid Othmani — with their patrol car and their weapons.
Othmani, who sustained bullet wounds at the hands of the kidnappers, was freed on Sunday by self-proclaimed “Libyan revolutionaries.”
The Ras Jdir border crossing between the two countries was closed for a few weeks last month until it was reopened on December 22.
The post was closed after Tunisian customs officials stopped reporting for duty at the post from November 30, following a string of incidents and infiltrations by armed Libyans.
Tunisia provided refuge to tens of thousands of Libyan civilians who fled the months of fighting that led to the collapse of Kadhafi’s regime.